Chewbacca–sized spoiler alert!
It’s ironic that this film, which features the spectacular destruction of gargantuan starships, an epic lightsaber battle, and a rampage through an intergalactic casino on the backs of space horses, also teems with lessons in, well, spirituality.
But as “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” departs theaters like yellow, scrolling text on a space background, we can reflect that this is indeed a profoundly spiritual movie that brings to mind the quote “Even or odd, thou shalt win the wager.” We’ll explore this connection further, along with three central spiritual themes: similarities between love and the force, detachment from the worldly, and persistence in the face of failure.
The Binding Power of the Force—and Love
Luke Skywalker re-emerges as one of the film’s heroes. Years before the events of “The Last Jedi” Skywalker was training his nephew Ben Solo, aka Kylo Ren, in the ways of the force. It didn’t end well, as Ren torched the Skywalker’s Jedi temple and murdered fellow Jedis-in-training. He then became a leader of the evil First Order regime. Embittered by his failure with Kylo, Skywalker leads a hermetic existence on an island on the isolated planet Ahch-To. The film’s other hero, Rey, engages with him, and after a herculean effort, convinces Skywalker to train her to assist the rebellion.
Naturally, they discuss the force. Skywalker observes, “The force binds everything together.” This exchange mirrors Baha’i views on love. While the force unites heroes in the Star Wars universe, in our reality, love, not the force, binds all things and fuels our growth:
Love is the cause of God’s revelation unto man, the vital bond inherent, in accordance with the divine creation, in the realities of things. Love is the one means that ensureth true felicity both in this world and the next. Love is the light that guideth in darkness, the living link that uniteth God with man, that assureth the progress of every illumined soul. Love is the most great law that ruleth this mighty and heavenly cycle, the unique power that bindeth together the divers elements of this material world, the supreme magnetic force that directeth the movements of the spheres in the celestial realms. Love revealeth with unfailing and limitless power the mysteries latent in the universe. Love is the spirit of life unto the adorned body of mankind, the establisher of true civilization in this mortal world, and the shedder of imperishable glory upon every high-aiming race and nation. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 27.
Detachment from the Worldly
The material world’s evanescence is central to the movie. Within Skywalker’s secret haven are the sacred tree and tomes of the Jedi religion. Luke stresses their importance to Rey—but in the end, he realizes they’re only outward trappings, and he decides to torch them. Yoda appears, in a mystical form, and claims that Rey already knows what she needs to know about the Jedi arts.
Skywalker says to Yoda: “I’m ending all of this. The tree, the texts, the Jedi. I’m going to burn it all down.”
Then, the diminutive Jedi master, pre-empting Skywalker, shockingly uses his Jedi powers to call down a lightning strike. The resulting fire burns down the sacred tree and torches the ancient texts as Yoda laughs.
Skywalker: “So it is time for the Jedi Order to end.”
Yoda: “Time it is for you to look past a pile of old books, hmm?”
Skywalker: “The sacred Jedi texts?”
Yoda: “Oh, read them, have you? Page-turners they were not. Yes, yes, yes …”
Yoda’s incendiarism, though captivating on the silver screen, mirrors the Baha’i writings on detachment from the things of this world:
Moreover, the scene reminds me of the simplicity of the Baha’i Faith—a religion without clergy or ritual. The true beauty of the Faith—or any of the revealed religions—isn’t in its outward trappings, but in the inward spiritual transformation it can awaken.
Persistence After Failure
This exchange between Skywalker and Yoda illustrates the value of persistence in the face of misfortune. Yoda comments on Luke’s bitterness over his failure with Kylo: “Pass on what you have learned. Strength. Mastery. But weakness, folly, failure also. Yes, failure most of all. The greatest teacher, failure is.”
Similarly, the end of the movie finds the decimated band of remaining rebels galvanized and resilient. As the daredevil X-wing pilot Poe Dameron declares, “We are the spark that’ll light the fire that’ll burn the First Order down.” The last scene shows a boy captured under the yoke of an ogre-like alien master. He watches the rebels’ lone transport speed across space and reveals a ring with the rebellion’s symbol—a promise of more struggles (and blockbusters) to come.
These episodes bring to mind another keystone Baha’i teaching:
Although the author of the following saying had intended it otherwise, yet We find it pertinent to the operation of God’s immutable Will: “Even or odd, thou shalt win the wager.” The friends of God shall win and profit under all conditions, and shall attain true wealth. In fire they remain cold, and from water they emerge dry. Their affairs are at variance with the affairs of men. Gain is their lot, whatever the deal. – Baha’u’llah, quoted by The Universal House of Justice, 10 February 1980, to Iranian Baha’is living outside Iran.
As forthcoming Star Wars chapters unfold, we can look forward to seeing how these spiritual virtues and principles play out in the endeavors of the noble rebels and the Baha’i community. May the force be with us!